£2.5m extension increases Willowdown School’s capacity
Written by Bridgwater Mercury on June 29, 2021
A PRIMARY school near Bridgwater has expanded its capacity by more than 200 pupils with a new £2.5 million extension.
Willowdown Primary School opened on the Kings Down development seven years ago with space for 210 children and has seen demand for places grow.
Expansion was built into the school’s plans from the start.
Funded and managed by Somerset County Council, the work has provided six new classrooms, plus an additional reception and nursery room, allowing the nursery to offer a further 26 places.
Ro O’Reilly, headteacher at Willowdown, said: “We are delighted to have our wonderful new extension open and operational. Contractors worked tirelessly to complete the new build on-time.
“This extension will allow the school to grow as the community expands over time.
“It has been fantastic to have so much space this year and has certainly helped with social distancing during a pandemic.
“We look forward to being able to invite our families in to see the new build when coronavirus restrictions allow – it is such a beautiful building; the children and staff are lucky to call Willowdown our school.
“Many thanks to Somerset County Council for funding and supporting the build.”
John Wells, CEO of the Clevedon Learning Trust, which Willowdown comes under the umbrella of, said: “The official opening of this extension marks an important milestone for the school. The extension is an asset for the local community that allows for more children to benefit from the excellent education and opportunities that Willowdown provides.
“My thanks to Somerset County Council, the contractors and everyone else involved in completing the build.”
The £2.5m project has been funded through Somerset County Council capital investment approved by Full Council. This funding was made available to enable the expansion with re-imbursement expected from the future section 106 agreement developer contribution from the North East Bridgwater site.
Councillor Clare Paul, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Public Health, said: “The new extension adds to the existing light, modern and airy space that benefits everyone involved with the school – staff, pupils and their families. The original construction was planned with expansion in mind and so the extension fits in perfectly.
“I hope that the children are enjoying the great learning environment provided at Willowdown and that the school continues to flourish for years to come.”
Work began on the extension in December 2019 and, despite the logistical challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, was completed on time – ready for the start of 2020/21 academic year as planned.
Contractors Mi-Space, part of the Midas Group, made sure the construction work was Covid-compliant, proving as safe an environment as possible for those involved in the project.
Chris Trafford, Operational Manager for Midas Group, said: “Having been responsible for the original construction of Willowdown Primary School, we were incredibly pleased to see the school serving its community and thriving to the point where more space was needed. We have really enjoyed continuing our positive relationship with the school and the local community.
“The success of the build, during what has been an extraordinary 18 months, is a tribute to the efforts of our own site team and the way all involved in the project have worked so well together to deliver this fantastic new facility.”
The extension was officially opened by the Mayor of Bridgwater, Councillor Leigh Redman, on Friday June 25, with Hudson Yeoman, Head Boy at Willowdown Primary School, cutting the ribbon in the school’s colour of burgundy red.
Before the ceremony, he said: “Bridgwater is thriving, our young people are starting to see things settle – we can’t say “back to normal” because there will not be a normal for sometime – as this pandemic starts to ease further, Bridgwater and the surrounding area is starting to open up.
“I have said previously and am happy to repeat, Bridgwater is very much open for business.
“I am lucky enough to be a Governor here, in fact I was at the first meeting when the school was first discussed and the question was asked, ‘what do you want the school to be?’ I was there and asked that the school be part of the Bridgwater community.
“To be here today, to have been part of the journey that will see me opening this new wing is really exciting.
“I love being part of Willowdown, I want to give a big shout out to everyone involved in bringing this new part of the school into reality, and a big thank you from me to you all for the amazing work you did to get our young people through the pandemic.
“It is a pleasure to be able to part of this opening, I cant wait to see our next set of young people blossom as they journey through Willowdown.
“Bridgwater is a great community, Willowdown is a big part of it. So it gives me great pleasure, in officially opening the new wing.”
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